I decided to brave the rigours ofÂ a train journey to London today — the first since I broke my leg falling off the train at Bishop Stortford in early May.
The occasion was the Arbitration Club lunch, of the Law Court Branch, held at the offices of City lawyers, Speechley Bircham, just off Fetter Lane.Â Both Peter Beuchel and Clive Freedman happened to be present and looked none worse for their exertion in the Great London Swim Event
One of the members of the club, Keith Kirkwood, who actually lives at Bishop Stortford, very kindly agreed to accompany me or I suppose, more correctly, be entirely responsible for getting me there and back safely, by whatever means. I had originally thought the wheelchair would be the best option but the business of ramps at Audley End Station and again at Liverpool Street and then getting the wheelchair into one of those special taxiâ€™s and out again, not to mention manoeuvring it about within Speechley Birchamâ€™s offices, before repeating the whole process inÂ reverse on the return journey, was a daunting prospect.. I’ve never tried it and I imagine one has to give prior notice to each station visited and say precisely on which train one is travelling, so that there can be made available. . Bearing all this in mind, I decided I would attempt the whole process with the gutter frame, despite the fact that the new wheels has yet to be fitted and the small plastic wheels, are far from ideal, for external use. However, remembering the marble surface of the Liverpool Street station I relied on the skill of the pavier to have produced a smooth surface for my Â walk up from Â platform 6Â to platform 10, to pick up a taxi.
The transition from home to station and onto the train went smoothly enough. The driver, who observed me climbing into the train on the gutter frame, very kindly left his cab, entered the compartment, where we were sitting, and asked if I would like a mobility wagon when we reached Liverpool Street Station. It was a very nice gesture which I declined as I was curious to see how my legs would hold up on what Â would be one of the longest walks I would have taken since the cast was removed. In the event, it was no problem
The first taxi we tried did have a special disability seat but it was not purpose-built and did not swing out over the pavement sufficiently far for me to sit on it comfortably. In any event, I don’t think it had ever been used before as the driver was uncertain how it functioned, and worse than that it did not click into place once I was in the cab, which would have made swinging round corners very precarious for me, so we switched to one of the modern purpose-built disability taxis. Like the train driver before him, Â the taxi driver was extremely helpful and pointed out that if I wished he would extend the wheelchair ramp over the pavement and then raise it to allow me to walk into the cab. However, I chose the easier option of the dickie seat swinging out over the pavement.
When we reached the lawyer’s offices we found they had a special wheelchair lift to take us down to the floor below. It was large enough for half a dozen wheelchairs and, no doubt, cost a great deal of money to install, so I believe they were very happy to last have found someone to use it — apparently I was the first.
The rest of the excursion went predictably. A modest lunch and an excellent discussion on arbitral matters before the excitement of the return journey with yet one more twist. The station attendant at Liverpool Street, seeing me struggling with the frame, asked where we were alighting and radioed ahead to Audley End to have us met off the train. Here again I achieved another first (or almost).
Audley End station had recently completed the installation of a very grand new staircase up and over the tracks with a splendid liftÂ at each end, which, according to the young man who met us, cost several million pounds. This railway employee was proud to announce that I was only the third person to use it. Thank heavens they had had it installed before the current round of austerity cuts had been imposed, as it would certainly have been for the chop and without it I would not have been Â able to get off at this station as the stairs would have defeated me. Who would have thought that such a journey will turn into such an adventure!
I must admit I’m very grateful to dear Keith for being such a helpful and thoughtful carer, particularly when I learned that after dropped me off he had to return to London for a meeting. It’s good to know that I can still attend the odd Arbitration Club lunch, at least, for the time being, provided someone like Keith is prepared to come with me.
A red letter day in more sense than one. This blog passed 600,000 hits today